If you believe holiday events and parties represent a time to indulge, imbibe and ignore business opportunities, you’re totally missing why entrepreneurs and start-up owners consider this the most wonderful time of the year.
Sprinkled sugar cookies in December may have you baking up new business in January. Ugly sweaters can have you dressed for success after the new year. With the right approach, you can turn holiday events into business happenings.
Here are five actions you can take to get more out of your next holiday event.
Have A Holly, Jolly Good Time
It’s imperative you show up with the right attitude for holiday parties. If you arrive with thoughts of, “I should be shopping” or “I hope my mother-in-law doesn’t come early,” it will dent your efforts to not only network, but to have a good time. Wrote Uber Brands founder Jonathan Long in a blog for Entrepreneur, “It’ll be obvious to everyone around you that you don’t want to be there.”
Of course, putting on a happy face can prove challenging during the holidays, especially if you haven’t had a good business year. The experts, however, say a lack of success makes it even more important to be present and start building towards the next year.
“You gotta show up like you belong,” career coach Kathleen Brady told Inc.
Wrap Yourself Up
We don’t mean put on a jacket before you go outside. We’re talking about playing to party themes and meeting expectations. If it’s an Ugly Sweater Party, wear an ugly sweater. That sounds so obvious, but every year you can find Scrooges at a holiday event who refuse to play along or underdress for more formal seasonal gatherings. Make the right fashion choices, and since it’s that time of the year, consider accentuating outfits with something special. The kids will say you’re being “extra,” but a Christmas tie or themed piece of jewelry can work to your benefit.
Sherry Alcorn, an author and entrepreneur, takes it a step further, suggesting in an Entrepreneur article that people don Santa hats.
The beauty of a Santa hat is that it tells the world that you’re approachable,” Alcorn said. “You’ll attract conversations by wearing it. Be bold, funny and cheerful by wearing your Santa hat and you’ll never know where a conversation will lead you.
The Best Present Is Presence
Networking always requires striking a balance between quickly sharing your aspirations while learning about the hopes of the people you engage. You need an introductory statement, an elevator speech, to initiate conversation. Make sure it contains those positive affirmations and avoids the negative buzz words.
You’re not trying to start a new business, you’re not trying to develop a new app, you’re doing it. Full stop. Avoid a tone of desperation or uncertainty. Exude confidence and let the offers of help come to you. Be clear about your goals, but also be clear about where you want to improve.
The key is striking the balance between confidence and cockiness. The former should be authentic but positive and leads to gifts under the tree. The latter is defined by humble brags, fake boasts and will result in only a lump of coal.
All You Want for The Holidays Is Dialogue
Of course, after you serve up your hopes and goals on a silver platter, you want to pivot and invite the person on the other end of the discussion to deliver their own treats.
Job search expert Alison Doyle says, “Your contacts can provide valuable information if you aren’t too busy doing all the talking.”
Business consultant Molly St. Louis suggests taking it a step further and becoming a connector, learning of someone’s passions and then helping them connect with another person at the party who can potentially help them fulfill those passions.
“People appreciate it when you do the networking for them,” St.Louis wrote in an Inc. article. “They come to know you as someone who is connected, and gets things done.”
We Three Kings Travel Together
The experts vary on if you should arrive at an event with partners or follow that North Start alone. St. Louis says bring a “wingman” because two people can cover more ground. Alcorn, however, says going it alone will keep you from congregating in the corner with your pal. Clearly, you want to make new connections.
Perhaps, it’s best to bring a friend or two, but make a promise to each other to spread out and work the room. One of your three kings can arrive with frankincense at a moment when the conversation lags and help you ease out of the discussion. They also can find someone whose business interests may align with your goals. If you’re talking to a friend, others may be more inclined to approach you.
But make sure you don’t sequester yourself in the corner and strike up a conversation only the two of you can enjoy. You can’t deliver the gold or receive.
Make A List, Check It Twice
So how do you avoid getting caught up in the revelry and failing to make the event pay off for your business? Enter the festivities with some specific benchmarks.
Of course, be reasonable. You may come off as overbearing if you try to seal a new deal with someone downing eggnog. St. Louis cautions to never ask for money. Restraint will come if you look to plant seeds for a future harvest.
“You’re trying to create on-ramps to build relationships,” Brady said.
Targeting a specific number may seem to take the joy out of your holiday spirit, but it fuels the focus needed to walk away with more than just a sugar high after overdosing on homemade fudge and gingerbread. Long, the Uber Brand founder, says goal setting can help determine how long you stay at the party.
“For example, you might want to establish three connections that can develop into business relationships. Do the same with holiday parties. Go in with a goal and work the crowd until you meet and exceed that initial goal.”